Forty drivers face a big test

The worldwide lauch of Bombardier's FLEXITY2 tram
The worldwide lauch of Bombardier's FLEXITY2 tram
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A TEAM of 40 drivers will take charge of Blackpool’s new supertrams when the service is launched next Easter.

Initially they will be recruited from within Blackpool Transport – but will have to meet exacting criteria in order to take the helm of one of the £2m vehicles.

They will be trained through the winter while the tramway is closed to passengers between the end of the Illuminations and the start of the new service.

Blackpool Transport managing director Trevor Roberts said: “It’s an absolutely fantastic opportunity to have brand new kit which will bring our passengers’ travel experience into the 21st century.

“We are looking forward to getting our hands on it.

“There is a complete difference between driving a heritage tram and a modern one, and we will be learning from other operators for example in Manchester.

“When you are driving a £2m tram you have to know how everything works and we are just about to launch driver training.

“In terms of recruitment, there will be a criteria to meet and we will be opening that up to existing employees.”

Following the unveiling of the first tram this week, manufacturer Bombardier, which will deliver the remainder of the 16-strong fleet in the coming weeks and months, will remain involved for a two year warranty period.

Project director Norbert Schulze said: “Blackpool has particularly rough conditions because it is by the sea. We took special care for the Blackpool project for the corrosion protection and this is something we are going to observe very closely because it’s in one of the toughest sites we have.”

Blackpool’s Flexity2 tram is the most advanced in the world, but other customers will soon follow with the next order due to be rolled out for the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia.

Meanwhile, Blackpool Council still harbours hopes of extending the tramway inland.

As part of the track renewal, points have been laid at Talbot Square in readiness for a route up to North Station in future.

Coun Fred Jackson, cabinet member for transport, said: “If we can get the funding to take the tramway to North Station, out to Poulton and to Lytham, that would be a great boost.”